Things That Interest Me #2
It was perfect timing to go to the Neil Gaiman reading/Q&A/Signing last night as today the thing that interests me is authors and creators using the internet to build communities.
(Incidentally, last night was superb. I had wonderful company and Mr. Gaimans reading of one of his short stores was superb. I was impressed by his improvisational skills when answering the audience questions. Then he worked for hours signing books. While signing a copy of his new book he said something so incredibly nice to me that I kind of went 'eeek!' in pure fannish joy).
But on to online communities.
I understand the whole Cluetrain/Hughtrain manifesto that 'marketplaces are conversations' although the whole marketing speak of it makes my skin itch. Instead, what I have found is that authors are building connections with their readers using online means.
Neil Gaiman is one such person. Go to his website and look around. You get the feeling that he is a really nice person partly from his blog and partly from the way he is happy to answer his reader's emails. He uses the internet to keep his fans updated on all the things that he is doing. This builds interest in his work and so a sense of community.
Another writer, Warren Ellis, embraces the technology of the internet. From Mailing lists, to his website and into The Engine forum, he not only keeps fans updated, but allows his personality to shine through. He is passionate about showcasing new talent (and pictures of penii carved into topiary) and has managed to carve out a cult of which I am a proud and happy member.
By building these communities it goes beyond the idea of 'selling stuff'. They provide a focus for people to meet around, they let you get to know the person behind the words and they allow you to ignore the boundaries of geography in meeting other people who share your interests. You can feel that the writer is your friend, that they are speaking on a level with you – and ultimately that converts into a loyal following who will buy the books and evangelise the work not just because it is good (because you need to be good to start that seed), but because you are their friend.
To look at it from another way, I *told* you that my book was old posts from this site, that you could just dig into the archives and you would find pretty much the entire text. So why did so many of you buy it? Was it for the physical artefact of the book, or was it because you think I'm a nice bloke who writes in an acceptable manner and you wanted to repay that a little? Would it have been bought in such mind boggling numbers if it wasn't released on the back of what has become, in it's own small way, a community?
It's not a one way process, I get a huge amount of pleasure every time someone comments on a post, immediate feedback is a huge motivator for blog writing. I love it that people are interested in what I am writing. I love meeting people who read this blog and I love taking part in the various communities that have sprung up around the blog format websites.
So writers, build that community – it creates loyalty, it builds friendships and it allows you to talk with people who should mean a lot to you.
Also it's a huge amount of fun.
If you know of any others, let me know of other similar sites, as I'm hugely interested in them.
(Written under a deadline, so it may wander a little as I scribble madly in bed before heading off to work)